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Determining the 'right place' - help!

I have lived at this property for just over a year, I have clay soil.  Although I’m working on improving the structure, I’m not planning on trying to plant anything that can’t cope with clay.  I totally get the right plant right place idea and I don’t want to fight nature.

My question is around how do you determine the characteristics of the place?

How damp does soil need to be and for how long before you would call it a damp area and plant damp loving plants?  Being on clay soil I have areas of the garden that take weeks to dry out but as the weather is currently even those areas appear very dry.

And for how long does a border need to be in shade before you plant shade loving plants in it?

I've got lots of plants in pots waiting to go in and I just seem to be tying myself up in knots with trying to make sure I get the right place. I know there is a certain amount of trial and error but any advice? 

Tomorrow is another day


  • NollieNollie Posts: 7,014
    @GardenerSuze planting for clay sounds like something you would be familiar with?

    I also garden on clay but have improved it beyond recognition so I can plant a much wider range of plants, but still they need the right place. I’ve had to experiment a lot, but the good news is that most shrubs and perennials can be easily moved if they are unhappy - too dry, too much sun/shade etc. Too wet is something I don’t have experience of though!

    Mountainous Northern Catalunya, Spain. Hot summers, cold winters.
  • GardenerSuzeGardenerSuze Posts: 4,210
    @Dogmum It has taken me many years to find out what works where. My soil has been  much improved over the years. It is red clay, bricks were made locally many years ago. It is wet in winter and dry in summer. The dilemma is always which way to go, plants for dry or wet situations. I stiil continue to work it out.

    I have an east facing border where I grow hellebores, ferns, snowdrops, campanulas pulmonarias. Infact the shallow rooted plants seem to do well as they are not fighting through the pan of clay further down. There is a Contorted Hazel which does well and would you believe a Ghost Bramble in the same border but it does get more sun.

    My front garden faces south lots and lots of gravel has been added so I now just go with free draining plants here. Grasses do well here.

    Shrubs are more of a problem but I do have Rosa Glauca and three different Viburnhams. Cotoneaster is a favourite but it a wet winter suffers then recovers when the weather gets drier.

    Now I have retired the biggest problem is watering especially at this moment very time consuming.  Anything you have to break up the soil use. I always mix some compost with the soil when planting and try to break it up as much as I can at that point.

    Hardy Geraniums do well in every aspect. Could you post a list of some of your plants I will try to help.


    A good gardener's eye sees more to be improved. Robin Lane Fox
  • bertrand-mabelbertrand-mabel Posts: 2,167
    @Dogmum we have been in our home since 1978. The soil is very heavy clay. We make our own compost and add it to the soil. You would think that we had never added anything to the soil over all these the winter porridge, in the summer concrete.
    But we do manage to grow different plants..tradescantia, different geraniums, acanthus to name just a few.
    Following on from @GardenerSuze yes we do have similar plants.
  • GardenerSuzeGardenerSuze Posts: 4,210
    edited June 2022
    @bertrand-mabel I know just what you mean. I added tons of mushroom compost in the beginning,compost, grit and homemade compost. The soil is better where it has been worked over the years.

    I grow Acanthus Hollard's Gold in an area where the soil is deeper and in a mild winter it still looks good. One plant that I didn't mention is the nodding Allium cernuum. I use it in different areas of the garden, sun,shade, anywhere other than too dry. It makes a great filler.  

    The front garden is mulched in early spring which improves the soil and helps to hold moisture. However this can be expensive and so I 'treat' myself.

    Over the years I have accepted the challenges, I see plants like clematis growing beautifully in a deep soil and think no not for my garden. You gain confidence in what you can achieve in your own space and major on the things that you can grow. I am more than happy to repeat plants around the garden it brings it all together. You really don't need to have lots of different plants to make a lovely garden. Just stick with the things you know will work for you.

    I do think it can be a mistake to have too many different plants, I have never had that opportunity but I know my garden is better for it.


    A good gardener's eye sees more to be improved. Robin Lane Fox
  • DogmumDogmum Posts: 95
    Hi @GardenerSuze and @bertrand-mabel, thanks so much for reading and taking the time to reply and thanks for the plant suggestions, advice and offer of further help.
    I realised I should stop pondering it all too hard, none of the plants have sentimental meaning and none are rare or irreplaceable and actually I just needed to get on with and  plant everything.
    i took a day out last week, dug lots of holes and emptied lots of pots and it felt very therapeutic.
    Just need to keep everything watered now 🌞😮
    Tomorrow is another day
  • GardenerSuzeGardenerSuze Posts: 4,210
    @Dogmum I don't think you are pondering it all too hard. It is something that has puzzled me for years. My front garden has lots of grit added to it and faces south. It is an old photo but if you type in' A sunny easy maintenance front garden' at the top you can see it. If you have a small area and are able to add lots of grit a hot garden can be one way of making the most of what you have. It does struggle a bit in the winter but Spring to Autumn it needs no water other than any new plants. This makes things much easier. It sounds hard work at present but going forward I am positive you will have a lovely garden.  Best Wishes Suze.

    A good gardener's eye sees more to be improved. Robin Lane Fox
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